OLPC to turn tablets into productive tools for learning with Marvell's $5.6 Million grant

   
   
   
   
   

Marvell has supported OLPC since the beginning; they have thus far just provided the WiFi meshing modules on XO-1 and XO-1.5.

Marvell co-invested with Google, News Corp, Novell and the others into letting OLPC bring about the XO-1 which forced Intel and the whole laptop industry to respond with the 100 Million netbooks to limit the effects of OLPC's potential disruption. Marvell and OLPC have now signed an agreement in which OLPC is to develop XO-3 Tablet(s) based on one of Marvell's ARM System On Chip processor solutions.

Marvell can justify the investment as an R&D investment in which everything OLPC develops, as all OLPC hardware designs are open source, can freely be used by Marvell's manufacturing OEM partners to also release commercial tablet products based on these technologies.

What OLPC is to be using this fund is to develop the Tablet to be used for productivity, for constructionist learning as href="http://armdevices.net/2010/10/01/nicholas-negroponte-keynote-at-the-mobilize-conference-give-every-american-child-a-tablet/">Nicholas
Negroponte said at the Mobilize 2010 conference last week:

"How do you make tablets a constructionist medium? A medium where you make things, you don't just consume them. Cause if it's about kids and learning, it's not like you feed a goose grain to make the foie gras.

You have to make it for kids to use it, to make, to communicate. Whether it's music, whether it's text or whether it's to write computer programs. And it has to be so low power, when it runs out of power you just shake it a little bit and it continues."

The future of OLPC: it's a notepad

The notepad is the oldest tool used by children in the classroom. Imagine adding full online and offline interactivity to the notepad. Imagine a magic notepad that can display every page from every book, every image and every video ever filmed. To display low bitrate tutorial videos that work even in black and white mode like the ones of the Khan Academy, even have them be interactive and provided as learning games.

The student can annotate all books, take notes and share them. The tablet is not only lighter and could be designed for cheaper, it also is the more usable form factor as an e-reader for reading all books ever written in the world. As Nicholas Negroponte says:

"There is no way to justify a paper book. If you'd want to send 10 thousand physical books, you'd have to take every 747 out of service around the planet just to move them from wherever they are being manufactured. Physical books are a luxury."

I wonder if 7" or 10.1" Pixel Qi will be used, or both. The 7" size may be optimal for it to be as light, cheap and durable as possible, it might be better for children to read books on a 7" form factor than a 10.1" one. For productivity, I think it should support both touch screen and some cheap $2 USB keyboards/mouse and use its built-in kick-stand.

Children can easily carry a $2 keyboard/mouse when they need to be most productive. Maybe a thin keyboard to double as screen protector and which can be clipped onto the back of the device when in tablet/e-reader mode could be a nice design feature, although the screen needs to be unbreakable enough for children not to need worry about carrying the tablet without a screen protector.

For software, I think that OLPC should work with Google and the emerging tablet industry to customize Android for education. Maybe add Sugar apps support on top of Android OS as a secondary app platform "module layer" on top of Android. Basically, Sugar could be a custom UI layer on top of Android for the XO-3 tablet.

This is cross-posted at ARMdevices.net

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8 Comments

Yep. To add to the analysis, I would say that the device should be able to be programmed in an open source language (such as python, HTML5, PHP) but also be able to utilize a touch screen. From what I understand, Apple has one of the better resources for that but it is on top of their Objective C language.


There are tons of educational software that needs to be made available for free. So far, few are free, well written, and effective in the US classroom. It is unfortunate that programmers don't have experience in creating effective educational material.

Again I hear the cry "programmers don't have experience in creating effective educational material". Consider: programmers need to be TRAINED to create effective educational material. Where are the trainers? Programmers need to be PAID for creating effective educational material. Who PAYS for the development?

So long as we depend on amateur educators with expertise in programming and amateur programmers with degrees in education and -- most importantly -- people who are willing to give their work away, what you see is what we'll get.

I'll train any programmer that asks for help - for free!

Okay, I'm asking: help!

Have a look at what I've produced so far (StarChart, ConstellationsFlashCards and Sunrise) and critique if you want. These programs seem to be successful in terms of being popular, but are they educational per se?

OK, but it will take some time as I have to install them and play with it.

Okay, thanks.

The latest versions of my programs are on the OLPC Activities page; the versions at Sugar Labs are a rev or two behind (because SL has an incompatibility with IE8).

Feel free to PM me through this site.

sorry I'll be changing the subject. talking about hardware (since this news post is also about this), here's a message for OLPC+Marvell:
- definitely don't give up the waterproof idea. it's not truely if it's not waterproof, and is what these kids need
- if the choice has to be made, go for the 7" screen. it's a better book format, and it would make it useable in hands mode (holding it in both hands, and typing with the thumbs, without having to put it down onto a table all the time. smaller kids could also use it like this, only turning it "portrait mode". this is impossible with a big 10.1")
- the attachable keyboard/mouse is a very good idea. just find a good way to attach/remove it, or to put it out of the way, and it gives the kids the choice of using their XO-3 in any way they want. great!

*sorry. I meant "rugged". was just trying to think of the right word. the sentence was:
- definitely don't give up the waterproof idea. it's not truely rugged if it's not waterproof, and rugged is what these kids need

keep up the good work OLPC!

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